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What we’re reading in November November 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Adventure, Book Awards, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Non-Fiction, Reviews, Uncategorized.
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In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes 

Cover image for Things are starting to look up for Dix Steele.  Looking for a new start in post-WWII Los Angeles he has found a swanky new apartment and reconnected with his old war buddy, now a homicide detective, Brub.  All he needs now is to find love, and he has his eye on his alluring neighbor, an up-and-coming starlet, Laurel Gray.  If he can have Laurel all to himself, he may not even strangle women walking alone at night anymore.  Well that, and if Brub’s nosy wife Sylvia would stop being suspicious of Dix and find him charming and agreeable like everyone else.  An excellent post-war noir that subverts some of the traditional misogynist motifs of the genre.  Megan Abbott, an accomplished noir author in her own right, has written more knowledgeably on how In A Lonely Place accomplishes this in the Paris ReviewTrent

 

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Cover image for This is the source material for the Disney animated movie The Sword in the Stone as well as the Broadway and movie musicals Camelot. It includes four books in one: The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. I am still in the first book, so not very far into the story of King Arthur. The fantasy adventure has a comic tone that I was not expecting. I thought the Disney movie was responsible for the funny talking animals and Merlin’s absent-mindedness. However, those aspects are present in the novel. Merlin and the author as narrator make anachronistic references to appeal to readers of the 1950s and 1960s close to the time when the novel was published. In fact there are a couple satiric jabs at current society since it is suggested that Merlin has been to the future and is living backward through time. It is a massive medieval adventure, but so far the chapters move along quickly. At least while Arthur is known as a boy named The Wart in the first book it seems like it is aimed more at younger readers, but I wonder if the tone changes later when Arthur reaches adulthood. I’ll keep reading and find out.  Byron

 

November Road by Lou Berney

Cover image for November road :Frank Guidry, a charming, well-dressed gangster who works for a New Orleans mob boss, has just returned from Dallas after following orders to deliver a blue Eldorado, when he learns that JFK has been assassinated. When Frank receives orders to return to Texas to dump the car in the ocean, he knows that his involvement means he’s next to die and decides to run for his life, a ruthless hitman in hot pursuit.  Meanwhile, Charlotte, mother of two young girls, decides to leave her alcoholic husband in Oklahoma and travel to Los Angeles to find a better life. When these two meet on Route 66, sparks fly and Frank convinces Charlotte to travel with him – the perfect cover – but he soon realizes that he could grow to like this new role.  Evocative and suspenseful, it’s got 60s sensibility, romance, a road trip, seedy motels, neon-lit Las Vegas, diners and Dylan. I listened to the fantastic audiobook version through Hoopla! Dori

 

 Prophecy and Politics: Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862-1917  by Jonathan Frankel

Cover image for Prophecy and politics :This is one of the more challenging books I’ve read this year, since there is a lot of information and, unfortunately, the font is small.  I also have traditionally struggled with reading books on history, but I’m giving it another go.  The book, at its best, is fascinating, and it can read like a novel – it is full of letters and speeches and ideas and characters and excerpts from socialist and nationalist literature.  Much of the book is devoted to the Bund, the group of Jewish socialists, founded in Russia in the 19th century, that spread to Lithuania and Poland.  Members of the Bund struggled with their cultural and political identities – how much were they Jews, and should be devoted to Jewish causes, and how much were they Russians, and should be devoted to Russian causes?  The history of the Bund is in many ways a history of the Russian Revolutions in 1905 and 1917, seen from a Jewish perspective, and it’s been fascinating to see figures like Vladimir Lenin interact with prominent members of the Bund.  It is also a history of Israel before Israel became a nation (the competing ideologies for Russian Jewry in the 19th century became nationalism, with roots in Palestine, and socialism, which had roots in Russia and America).  A challenging but worthwhile read. Andrew

 

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor D. LaValle

Cover image for The ballad of Black TomWith only being 151 pages long this book packs quite a punch. The Ballad of Black Tom is a retelling of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook but from the perspective of Tommy Tester. LaValle’s narrative highlights not just the horrors of the supernatural but of the racism and xenophobia as events unfold. The author creates  characters who are grounded in reality who then deal with the swell of the uncanny. You will be caught up in the fast paced narrative and even fans of the lovecraftian source material will have whiplash from the conclusion and epilogue. Greg 

 

 

The Fallen by David Baldacci

Cover image for The fallenEvery once in a while you need an action book with a good guy who you know will win.  That is Amos Decker in this new Memory Man book, The Fallen.  Amos and his journalist friend Alex take a vacation to visit Alex’s sister in a small, depressed Pennsylvania town.  Even when he is not looking for trouble, trouble finds him, and Amos discovers two dead bodies in the neighbor’s house.  It is soon apparent that something big is going on in this little town, and there’s no telling who is a part of it.  After suffering a concussion, Amos’s infallible memory begins to get a little fuzzy and less reliable.  Will he still be able to solve the case or was his memory the only thing that made him an amazing detective?  A quick and easy read that is a bit predictable but enjoyable none the less.  Sara

 

 Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart

Cover image for Miss Kopp just won't quitThis novel is based on on actual events and centers around two of them.  Anna Kayser’s husband has her committed to an insane asylum for the fourth time under false pretenses, and deputy Constance Kopp knows she doesn’t belong there.  In 1916, Sheriff Robert Heath is running for congress and a new county sheriff will be elected. The new sheriff has no desire in keeping a woman deputy sheriff on board. He quickly dismisses Deputy Kopp. Robert Heath loses the election and Constance Kopp is unemployed. The fourth entry in the Kopp sisters series leaves lots of loose ends to be worked out, but it’s a quick fun read for fans of historical fiction. Emma

 

 

Warcross by Marie Lu

Cover image for WarcrossEmika Chen is a broke, orphaned eighteen-year-old with a criminal record – one she got from hacking computers. And, like the rest of the world, she’s obsessed with a virtual reality game called Warcross (think Quidditch meets Ready Player One). On the opening day of the International Warcross Championships, Emika is hurting for rent money. When she hacks into the game and attempts to steal an expensive item, she glitches herself into the action and reveals her identity. Emika thinks she’s going to be arrested, but instead, she’s pursued by the game’s creator, heartthrob Hideo Tanaka, to become a spy in next year’s tournament. But the sinister plot Emika uncovers could unravel the entire Warcross empire.   I picked up this book because I wanted to be able to recommend more sci-fi to teens. I am really enjoying the pacing of the book (Marie Lu knows how to write a thriller!) and the diverse cast – Emika, like the author, is Chinese American, Hideo is Japanese, and Emika’s Warcross team captain, Asher, uses a wheelchair. Recommend this NYT Bestseller and its sequel, Wildcard, to fans of The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games, and Divergent.  Lyndsey

 

 

 

 

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What we’ve been reading in May… May 23, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Beach Reads, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction, Summer Reading, Suspense, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

Cover image for This is the story of Christopher Knight known as “The North Pond Hermit”, a man who walked into the woods of Maine at age 20 and did not leave until arrested 27 years later. He was arrested for burglarizing nearby cabins to obtain food and various essentials for his survival.  Once arrested, he immediately confessed to what added up to nearly 1000 burglaries and showed remorse for his crimes. He never hurt anyone, nor did he ever damage anything. Mr. Knight simply wanted to live alone in the woods. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, the author, Michael Finkel, is able to give a detailed account of Knight’s secluded life.  In addition to Knight’s story, Finkel discusses famous hermits in the past, and mental illness topics which help the reader to better understand Mr. Knight, however, the author leaves the reader feeling that one will never have a complete understanding of Knight’s mindset & choices. I found the story of Christopher Knight to be fascinating. He survived by his high level wits, common sense and courage. He could “MacGyver” anything, and bring himself to a peaceful mental state of embracing the quiet and solitude of the forest.  He clearly wrestled with fundamental communication & social skills (a common thread in his family), and believed his escape to the woods was his only choice for survival. This is an excellent choice for book clubs, having so many different discussion points to pursue.  You will also find that readers will have very different viewpoints about Mr. Knight, as did the residents of North Pond, which will add to the talking points about this book. I personally see all sides to this story, and have a weak spot for Christopher Knight.  The big question I ask myself is can we unconditionally accept each other for who we truly are? Mary

 

Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Cover image for Boy Erased has been on my radar since it was released in 2016, and recently came to my attention again since it is being made into a movie. In this memoir, Conley recounts his experience growing up as the only child of a Baptist pastor in Arkansas. After being outed as gay to his parents, he agreed to enroll in conversion therapy. The memoir moves between his experience in the program and memories from his childhood and teenage years. As expected, the trauma Conley experienced in the conversion therapy program is upsetting and heartbreaking, but it is also beautifully observed and eloquently written, on par with Dani Shapiro or Mary Karr in terms his ability to powerfully self-excavate. This is a must-read for members of the LGBTQ community who grew up in religious households, all clergy, and for those looking to increase their capacity for empathy.  Lyndsey

 

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Cover image for I’ve been reading The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, who is a social psychologist and professor at New York University.  I really enjoyed his more recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, so I thought I’d give this a try.  I’m not finding it as challenging as The Righteous Mind, but there are interesting chapters about the difference between romantic love  (passionate, fleeing) and companionate love (longer lasting, deeper attachment), as well as a great chapter about whether or not modern psychological studies can back up the idea that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Haidt thinks that we can learn from adversity under the right circumstances, especially if we can construct a life-narrative that makes sense out of our suffering.  He argues that positive relationships, meaningful work, and a connection to something larger can work together to make us happier.  Andrew

 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Cover image for In Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, attorney Avery Stafford leaves her job in South Carolina to assist in the care of her cancer-stricken father. At a meet and greet event at a local nursing home Avery meets May Crandal. Seeing an old photo in May’s room makes Avery think there might be a link between May and her Grandma Judy. May’s real name was Rill Foss until she and her siblings became part of black-market adoptions practiced by the Tennessee Children’s Home. The mystery begins. This is a difficult tale to imagine. The novel was inspired by firsthand accounts of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society that existed into the 1950’s. Emma

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Cover image for I’ve just finished listening to Ready Player One during my commutes, which was a great adventure. I’m still gradually working on the ebook A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960. Following Free Comic Book Day I read a handful of various comics. Next I’m looking forward to a book on CD of Amy Bloom’s White Houses. It is not often that I pick up a brand new best seller, but I’ve read many good things about this work of historical fiction. Since recently watching a Ken Burns documentary series about the Roosevelt family (with extra attention paid to Teddy, FD, and Eleanor) I’m primed for this intimate story about perhaps the most intriguing first lady in history.  Byron

 

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg

Cover image for This past month I had the great pleasure of reading The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg. A retelling and mash-up of stories (fairy tales, biblical, and folklore), this collection of stories feels familiar and yet very alien.  Though there is a sinister tone that seems to saturate the book that is often reinforced by the ambiguous endings of each tale. Ortberg plays with gender and archetypes and it’s often this play on the structure and tradition of these stories that brought me the most  joy as a reader. It is a quick read but never feels rushed. Recommended for readers who love sinister tales that jump from magical realism to all out fantasy. Greg

 

The Day She Disappeared by Christobel Kent

Cover image for When Beth, a small time bar maid, disappears, everyone thinks she has just moved on to a new adventure.  But her best friend Natalie does not believe it for a minute.  She is sure something sinister has happened.  Nat tries to piece together Beth’s past and her relationships, realizing her friend kept a lot of secrets.  And as strange things begin to happen in Natalie’s house and to an elderly bar patron with a foggy memory, it becomes obvious that someone wants these secrets to remain hidden.  Another fantastic suspense story from Christobel Kent, beautifully written, with characters you would want to meet and images of an English countryside you would love to visit.  Sara

Reading With My Boys May 21, 2018

Posted by Mary in Adventure, Biographies, Book Awards, Book Discussion, Fantasy, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized.
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One of my favorite things to do with my boys is read together.  We are well beyond the picture books, but my boys & I enjoyed reading together until they hit their teens.  Summer vacation is right around the corner, and me & my 12 year old son have been discussing what books we would like to read together this summer.  The older they get, the more difficult it is to find time to read together during the school year due to homework and extra- curricular activities, but we try to carve out at least 15 minutes in the evening of reading a book together.  Depending on the book, sometimes this 15 minutes can turn into an hour.  During summer break it’s much easier to find time to read together.  Most times we find ourselves on the glider on the back patio, catching up on our most current favorite story.  Summer usually involves a road trip or two, and reading together in the car has been a hit as well.

Now let me be clear, by reading together, I do mean I read the story out loud.  I know, it may seem somewhat juvenile for a middle schooler, but trust me they love it.  I ham it up with accents and lots of emotion in my voice.  With my oldest & youngest, they sat right next me and read along.  My middle guy played nerf basketball while I read away, nonetheless, he was equally engaged in the story.

When my oldest two boys were in high school I would stare at their required summer reading splayed on the coffee table, pretty much untouched. Finally, I picked it up & started reading.  The required summer reading can be great picks, although your high schooler may not agree.  If you read it too,  you can discuss the book with them.  Discussion wasn’t lengthy about a book they couldn’t choose, but it was something to share with your teenager & how often does that happen?

The library Community Read events are fantastic book pics to share with any member in your family.   So much of our family time together has been swallowed up by devices. Even though we all may be sitting in the same room, individually we have our head down, scrolling through our devices.  Put those devices down, pick up a book, read it out loud or share what you’ve read for just 15 minutes each night.  Trust me, you will cherish these moments & remember them forever.

These are some of my favorite books I read with my boys:

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Here are my favorite high school summer reading pics I read along with my boys:

Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family

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What we’re reading in April… April 23, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Adventure, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thrillers.
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I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillian

Cover image for I have not read any Terry McMillian (the author of Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back), so I thought it was about dang time I did. This novel is about Georgia Young, a successful optometrist in her 50s who has “made it” in life – her successful career enabled her to buy a home in a wealthy neighborhood and live comfortably. But she is divorced, bored, and lonely. When news comes that a former lover passed away a few years earlier, it sets off a mid-life crisis that pushes Georgia to reevaluate her life and make some changes: quit her job to do something she loves, find a new home, and meet with former lovers to tell them what she never go to say to them. Terry McMillian knows how to tell a story and does a great job reading the audiobook, giving Georgia the sassy, wise-sounding voice she deserves. This is a great book for those who enjoy stories about relationships and how they define who we are. Lyndsey

 

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Cover image for Dread Nation is an alternate history Civil War story. With zombies. The War Between the States was derailed when the dead on the battlefield walked again. Now, the North and South are united against a common enemy. To fight the undead the Native and Negro Reeducation Act became law, forcing Negro children to attend combat schools. Jane McKeene is one such student at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore. She is training to become an lady’s Attendant. Jane dreams of returning to her plantation home in Kentucky, but instead she finds herself in the middle of a deadly conspiracy. As a new undead threat rears it’s head, Jane learns that these poor souls aren’t her biggest worry. Full of action and suspense, this isn’t just another zombie book. Jane is a badass, biracial woman killing zombies and taking on issues like institutionalized racism, sexual identity, and notions of femininity. She is clever, sassy, and a force to be reckoned with.  Megan

 

The Stand by Stephen King (adapted by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa)

Cover image for As usual I’m working through multiple books in different formats at once. For Mystery Week in early April I began listening to the book on CD And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie during my commutes. While the large cast of characters is a bit difficult to keep straight early on in this classic, by the middle the mystery of the strange trap that has caught the characters has grabbed your attention. I am also reading Stephen King’s The Stand in graphic novel form. As adapted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa the story is split into six volumes. At this writing I’m in volume #4. Another novel with many characters that are quite distinctly drawn. This thrilling story of survival and rebuilding society has a classic good vs. evil dynamic. And on my Kindle by my bedside is A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960 by Jeanine Basinger, which I checked out with OverDrive. She takes a look at the genre of “Women’s Films” that featured starring women protagonists, women’s issues, and both subverted and supported the role a woman was supposed to play in society. I’ve heard of some of these film titles, but there are many others about strong women that I’ll have to add to my watch list after reading this. Byron

 

The Grifters by Jim Thompson

Cover image for Roy Dillion appears to be nothing more than a personable, hardworking salesman and has a hundred acquaintences that would swear to that very fact.  However, he is a natural of the short con; a grifter who has eschewed one of the cardinal rules of the trade and successfully worked the same city without notice.  When a sure-fire con misfires, Roy’s past catches up with him and his world begins to spiral out of control.  Trent

 

 

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Cover image for MY ANTONIAMy most current read is My Antonia, yes, an oldie but a goody. I was inspired to read this by a fellow co-worker’s blog about rediscovering the classics, and also because I  love a good coming of age story. This particular book did not disappoint. My Antonia takes place in the late 1880’s.  This is the story of Antonia, an immigrant of Bohemia, told by recently orphaned Jim Burden.  Jim is sent to rural Nebraska to live with his grandparents, also neighbors to the Shimerda family, of which Antonia is the eldest daughter.  Jim and Antonia spend their early years exploring the new landscape of rural Nebraska together and so begins a life long friendship between the two. Antonia is a bold and free spirited woman who endears herself to Jim and readers alike. Willa Cather does a wonderful job of introducing the reader to life in rural Nebraska, and the immigrant experience of adjusting  to a new world.  One can’t help but feel for Antonia’s triumphs and tribulations, and be inspired by such a strong woman. Mary

 

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Cover image for The Tuscan childThe Tuscan Child is the story of Johanna Langley’s father, Sir Hugo, who dies unexpectedly. She wants to understand what happened to him during WWII. He was a British bomber pilot who was shot down over German-occupied Tuscany near the town of San Salvatore. Local resident Sofia Bartoli tended to his needs at severe risk to herself, family and village. When Johanna visits San Salvatore 30 years later, no one remembers her father or wants to talk about Sophia. This is a treat for fans of historical fiction. Emma

 

The Star of Redemption by Franz Rosenzweig

Cover image for The star of redemptionI am very interested in the writings of Franz Rosenzweig, a German-Jewish philosopher, theologian, and translator who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century and died in 1929 of Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.  Rosenzweig translated the Hebrew Bible into German with another famous Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber.  Rosenzweig also wrote a very interesting but challenging book called The Star of Redemption, which I am trying to read. The Star of Redemption is a book that helps me to think about the meaning of Judaism, though he also writes about Christianity, which he was close to converting to when he was a young man.  He is into “negative theology,” which means that any attempt to define or describe God fails, because God (according to negative theology) is unsayable and ineffable, totally beyond human concepts and categories, though we can experience God through the fullness or plenitude of the world.  At varying times in my life I have been an atheist, an agnostic, and (when I was young) a somewhat skeptical believer, but this book is making me think about Judaism in a new way.  Andrew

 

I See You by Claire Mackintosh

Cover image for I’m in a “quick read” phase, and I See You  hits the spot.  In this British thriller, Zoe Walker’s boring, suburban life is shaken up when she sees her picture in a classified ad for a service called “findtheone.com”  She digs deeper and discovers that other women who have been in these ads have been victims of violent crimes and wonders if she is next.  Her paranoia develops into full-blown panic as she worries that every stranger on her morning commute is watching her.  The book does a great job of building suspense and letting you get to know Zoe, however I found the ending to be less than plausible and a little unsettling.  Sara

 

Hot Mess by Emily Belden

Cover image for In Hot Mess by Emily Belden, twenty-five year old Allie Simon prides herself on being sensible; she has a good job, friends and a supportive family. Then she becomes consumed by bad boy celeb chef  and recovering drug addict Benji Zane who asks that she invest all her savings in a new restaurant. After he relapses and disappears, Allie is left with having to build a restaurant while recovering from heartbreak and maneuvering the food scene in Chicago. A fun read filled with romance and food starring a strong female character.  Dori

 

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

Cover image for This is a timely story about the harsh reality of today’s racial tension.  Starr Carter lives in a poor urban neighborhood riddled with gang violence and racial profiling by police.   When Starr leaves a party after shots are fired, she and her childhood friend, Khalil,  are pulled over for a taillight.  The officer is nervous and misconstrues  Khalil’s words and actions, leaving Starr to witness the fatal unraveling of the police stop.  The book unfolds around this story and how the community and Starr deal with the aftermath.  It’s heartbreaking and painfully relevant.  Beth

 

 

 

 

What we’re reading now.. February 9, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Cover image for August, a worldly anthropologist, has returned to New York to bury her father, but after running into an old friend at the subway station, she is flooded with childhood memories. At a young age, August’s father has moved her & her younger brother from Tennessee to Brooklyn.  Once settled into Brooklyn,  August finds her best girlfriends in Angela, Gigi and Slyvia.  Angela and Gigi are from fractured families, and Sylvia has over bearing parents with high expectations. The four girls together navigate growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970’s.  The girls find comfort, happiness and security in their friendship within turbulent times nationally and in their own neighborhood.  The effects of the Vietnam war, white flight, drug abuse, poverty, absent mothers and predatory men are intertwined with their adolescent years. Tragedy ultimately pulls at their friendship.  A beautiful and poetic coming of age story about girlhood, friendship, dreams and loss.  Mary

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

Cover image for I’ve been listening to this trilogy on audiobook and really loving it.  The books are The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.  Right now I’m near the end of The Subtle Knife.  Although the novels are often considered young adult literature, they can really appeal to young and old alike.  There’s a great blend in the books of realistic and fantastic elements, and the characters are compellingly and convincingly drawn.  The books are so absorbing!  Listening to them, and being entranced by them, reminds me of my experience reading books as a kid – the way you can really get pulled into the story and experience in a really intense way the magic of reading.  Andrew

Hellraiser Omnibus. Volume One by Clive Barker

Cover image for So one thing that may be coming very clear is I am a big fan of horror, specifically supernatural horror. This month I have decided to review a graphic novel I finished recently, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Omnibus. Volume One. This volume contains  issues Hellraiser #1 to #20 and Hellraiser Annual #1 which seem to pick up years after the second film. (One note is that these comics were originally published between 1989-1993 so the comics contained don’t reference the films past those dates.) Pinhead is of course in this collection but the stories told here wildly expand the Hellraiser universe with new characters, cenobites, and new views of hell/horror. The best thing about this volume is it combines many out of print collections of comics into one handy volume. If you are a fan of horror and the Hellraiser world this is a don’t miss. Greg

Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days  by Chris Guillebeau

Cover image for Chris Guillebeau provides a handbook for developing an effective alternative source of income in his book by giving  practical applications for finding extra income while pursuing a passion.  I found the example scenarios inspiring, and it has helped me to start searching for my side hustle opportunity hidden in my daily activities.  Beth

 

In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami (Ralph McCarthy, Translator)

Cover image for Kenji, an unlicensed guide for foreign tourists, makes his living providing tours for those looking to experience the seedier side of Tokyo nightlife.  So when his current client Frank’s behavior seems strange and troublesome, it isn’t because Kenji is naïve that he begins to wonder what Frank’s real intentions are.  An unnerving psychological thriller. Trent

 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cover image for The positive buzz and awards earned by this book are amazing. However, it is the dramatic historical fiction story, which reminds me a bit of the multigenerational miniseries Roots, and the “what if” aspect of the Underground Railroad in this telling being a real subterranean train that made me add it to my reading list. When Colson Whitehead appeared at a marketing conference in Cleveland last year giving a talk about storytelling, I picked up a copy of this book. I have high expectations for it and so far it is not disappointing. The humanity and lack of humanity in the slave experience comes across powerfully through Whitehead’s language. Byron

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

Cover image for A recent immigrant from Ireland, Clara Kelley, assumes the identity of a fellow passenger who died during the voyage. She secures a position as lady’s maid to Margaret Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie’s mother. Clara’s goal is to send money back to her struggling family in Ireland. Andrew is attracted to Clara, and they secretly spend time together. Andrew shares some of his business expertise with Clara and welcomes her suggestions until Clara disappears when Mrs. Carnegie learns of her deceptions. For lovers of historical fiction. Emma

Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller

Cover image for This book is an extension of a column Kelsey has been putting out every Monday since November 2013 called “The Anti Diet Project.” In the column—and, to a greater extent, in the book—Kelsey commits to unlearning disordered eating and distorted body image. With the help of an Intuitive Eating coach, she figures out how to eat based on her body’s instincts and how to exercise rationally and sustainably. All throughout this process, she examines how her relationship with food and her body was impacted by family, friends, and significant others. I am listening to the audiobook, and Kelsey is hilarious, sharp-as-a-whip, and wholly relatable. I highly recommend this book for any person who has been made to feel shame for their body shape or food choices. It is a liberating and empowering read (or listen). Lyndsey

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Cover image for This novel by author of The Dry takes us once again to a remote area of Australia as Federal Agent Aaron Falk investigates the disappearance of an important whistleblower in one of his cases.  Five colleagues from a family-owned business are forced to take a “team-building” nature excursion as part of  a corporate retreat, but when one doesn’t return, Agent Falk suspects that some of her co-workers know more than they are telling. This book gives a look into the complex relationships between co-workers, lovers, friends and family.  Sara

The Red Clocks by Leni Zuma

Cover image for The Red Clocks is The Handmaid’s Tale for a new generation. Four women in a small Oregon town struggle with new laws that grant personhood to embryos and make IVF and abortions illegal. Ro is a single woman in her forties desperately trying to get pregnant. Susan is an unhappy housewife and mother. Mattie, one of Ro’s best students, is facing an unwanted pregnancy. Their lives intersect when Gin, a reclusive homeopath with connections to all three, is arrested. The Red Clocks is an audacious and unapologetic cautionary tale. Megan

 

 

 

 

What we’re reading now… January 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, New Books, Non-Fiction, Suspense, Uncategorized, Young Adult.
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The Hearth Witch’s Compendium: Magical and Natural Living for Every Day by Anna Franklin

The Hearth Witch's Compendium: Magical and…Not a book designed to be read straight through, The Hearth Witch’s Compendium is much more a resource guide for individuals who wish to include their magical practice into their everyday routine and life. Resource guide might actually be an understatement. This 512 page volume contains dozens and dozens of recipes and remedies addressing jam preserves to making your own self care products to dyeing your own fabric. The instructions are approachable, easy to read (Franklin is a British writer but graciously provides a conversion table in the back for measurements) and clear. There isn’t much magical instruction within all these amazing recipes which was a bit of a let down, but there is a ton of information towards the back to what ruling planets, deities, and celestial phases all the ingredients correspond with. Highly recommended for readers looking for a resource they can return to again and again for ideas on how to handle the pragmatic with a magical flair. Greg


System of the World (The Baroque Cycle #3) by Neal Stephenson

The System of the World by Neal StephensonThis final volume of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle ties up the myriad storylines that have emerged throughout the series. There is something for everyone in this.  For much of the series, we follow Natural Philosopher Daniel Waterhouse through pre-Enlightenment England as Isaac Newton and the Royal Society pivot from alchemy to science.  If the invention of calculus is not your cup of tea, there is no want of political intrigue among Protestants and Catholics following the restoration of the British Monarchs.  If not that, there is the swashbuckling adventures of Jack Shaftoe, King of Vagabonds or Eliza as she rises through the European elite via machinations involving new inventions in finance.  The breadth of this series is far beyond the size of anything that should work – yet it does.  Trent


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo TolstoyI’ve been reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  It’s an amazing book.  Tolstoy is so incisive about his characters, he knows them so well, and so over time we feel like we really get to know and even love Pierre, Andrei and Natasha (although there are a lot more characters, those are probably the main three).  Tolstoy studied in a very intense way the military campaigns between Russia and France, and then he is able to infuse what he learned with his astonishing imagination.  It seems like he gets every detail right, from the description of what the men and women are wearing in a ballroom, to descriptions of gun smoke in a field during a battle.  He’s able to really zoom in and zoom out in this wonderful way.  Andrew 


Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel  by Marie Benedict

Carnegie's Maid: A Novel by Marie…This is the story of Clara Kelley, a recent immigrant from Ireland, who assumes the identity of a fellow passenger who died during the voyage. She secures a position as lady’s maid to Margaret Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie’s mother. Clara’s goal is to send money back to her struggling family in Ireland. Andrew is attracted to Clara, and they secretly spend time together. Andrew shares some of his business expertise with Clara and welcomes her suggestions until Clara disappears when Mrs. Carnegie learns of her deceptions. For lovers of historical fiction and fiction. Emma


The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) by…This book marks the author’s return to the land of faeries. Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and her sisters were stolen away to the High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Faerie is all she knows and all she wants is to truly belong. One of her biggest obstacles is Prince Cardin, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. Cardin despises mortals and goes out of his way to make Jude’s life miserable. To earn a place in Court, Jude must go head to head against Prince Cardin. When she does, she finds herself caught in the middle of a political scandal that threatens everyone in Faerie. Can a mere mortal outwit the traitors and save fae? Megan


The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward AbbeyI’m almost finished with this book from the 70s about environmental saboteurs against the industrial complex out west taking the land’s natural resources. To be real the characters, plot, and writing are becoming annoying and I’m just trying to finish it quickly. Next I’m waiting on a hold through Overdrive on my Kindle for Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen and a book on CD from Rocky River of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal. Byron


The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees by Viet Thanh NguyenA captivating and complicated set of short stories that examine identity, family, and romantic love through the eyes of Vietnamese refugees. Realistic elements are mixed with some fantastical ones (for instance, in the first story in the collection, a girl is visited by her brother, a ghost)—a literary technique perhaps intended to shed light on how disorienting and bizarre immigrant life can be.  In the audio book format, Nguyen reads his own stories, and his gentle and lightly accented voice creates an authentic soundscape for the reader. It is no wonder that Nguyen was showered with accolades for his first book, The Sympathizer. His masterful, self-aware prose won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the ALA Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, among others. Lyndsey


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane GayThis was not quite what I expected but a very good read nonetheless. I found the beginning to be a bit scattered and slow at times which made it difficult for me to make a connection with the book.  However, after reading and digesting all her essays I feel that I would like to strive to be a similar feminist to Roxane Gay – someone who is thoughtful, objective, outspoken when necessary and truly unique.  Mary

 


The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola YoonThis story takes place mostly in one very transformative day in the life of two teens, Daniel and Natasha. They meet by chance as they are both on their way to two very different, but equally important meetings that could potentially change the course of their lives forever.  The story is hopeful and sweetly romantic. Beth

 

 


City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty,

The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad…A perfect winter escape, this debut fantasy novel, book #1 in The Daevabad Trilogy, transports readers to mystical Arabia. Nahri, an orphaned young woman living in Cairo by her wits, her cons, and a little bit of magic, has her life upended when she unknowingly calls forth a djinn warrior who recognizes that she’s not entirely human. Chased by demons, they journey to the supposed safety of Daevabad, the city of brass, where political and ethnic strife is swirling beneath the surface and where Nahri discovers the mystery of her origin.  Dori


The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man: A Novel by C. J. TudorSwitching between 1986 and 2016, this book takes you through the summer holidays of Eddie and his friends who are growing up and looking for some excitement in their tiny British village.  They sure find it when a game they’ve developed using chalk figure codes leads them to a dismembered body.  Jump to 2016 and the chalk figures are showing up again. It seems like just a prank until one of the old friends turns up dead.  Eddie must figure out what happened years ago in order to save himself and the others. Sara


 

 

 

 

 

 

Top of the List 2017 December 15, 2017

Posted by Dori in Audio, Book Awards, Book List, Book Review, Debut Author, eAudio, Fantasy, Fiction, First Novel, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2017.
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I must admit that I did not read as many books as is my norm this year. I will not offer up a bunch of excuses (except 2017 was a whopper of a year, wasn’t it?), but will share the best of those I did read, with many gems in the bunch:

lincolnLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I listened to this remarkable Booker Prizewinning book in audiobook form – with its cast of notable actors casting a spell that had me hooked. It was so unique:  moving, funny, weird, and insightful. I think it’s one of those audiobooks that I need to now read in book form. Don’t miss this one.

 

exit - CopyExit West by Mohsin Hamed
Two young people who fall in love in an unnamed country when a civil war erupts escape through metaphysical ‘doorways’. Finding themselves as refugees, they have to come to terms with their pasts and futures. Brutal and ravishing.

 

anythingAnything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
A short story that follows the lives of people briefly encountered in her previous book My Name is Lucy Barton that is just beautifully written and offers glimpses of the wonder of humanity. These are the kinds of books I’m drawn to – seemingly simple but powerful.

 

mountainThe Mountain: Stories by Paul Yoon
Another seemingly simple book. In restrained but exquisite prose, Yoon’s short stories are about people across the world who’ve been molded by tragedy and loss but still put one foot in front of the other and carry on.

 

manhattanManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Egan delves into straight up historical fiction, creating characters that resonate and enveloping readers in the fascinating world of New York City during the Depression. Not my favorite Egan, but a great example of ambitious historical fiction.

 

allgrownAll Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
This book made me laugh and that was important this year!  Her main character is a single 39-year-old woman who’s living life defying, while worrying about, the expectations of others and society at-large. She might exasperate you, but she sure is someone a lot of us can relate to.

 

leaversThe Leavers by Lisa Ko
This debut about a young Chinese-American boy who’s adopted into a white family after his immigrant mother disappears is a moving look at what happens to those who leave and those who are left behind. Plus it’s an eye-opening look at the effects of U.S. immigration policy.

 

saintsSaints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
Raise your hand if you love a quality dysfunctional family book!  If so, this is one you have to get a hold of asap. Irish immigrants to Boston, family deception that resonates through the next generations – it’s got it all.

 

longwayclosedThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit and by Becky Chambers
My co-worker recommended these to me and I thank her for it! These are the first two in Chamber’s Wayfarers series and they are adventurous, funny and meaningful outer space dramas. Even better as audiobooks!

index (1)On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
This is a short but incredibly important book to read right now! A historian of the Holocaust, Snyder takes lessons from the past to guide us for the future.

 

And a bonus:

fifthThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison:
I must admit that I haven’t finished this one – I began listening recently and I’m hooked. It’s the first book in a trilogy – The Broken Earth series – and is set in a post-apocalyptic society. The world building is incredible and the characters, fascinating. I’ll be spending much of my winter with this series.

 

Happy Holidays and best to you and yours!

~ Dori

 

 

 

 

 

Megan’s Favorites of 2017 December 15, 2017

Posted by Megan in Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Top Ten, Young Adult.
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Ah, the annual struggle of a reader…picking the favorites.

Favorite Teen Reads:

  1. Scythe by Neal Shusterman-In a world where disease and old age have been conquered, the only way to die is to be killed by professional reapers. Two teens are in a contest to become a scythe, despite the fact that neither wants the job.scythe
  2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas-When Starr Davis becomes the sole witness to the police shooting of her childhood friend, her life changes. The incident makes headlines and everyone from her poor neighborhood and the upscale prep school she attends has an opinion on the matter. hate
  3. Strange the Dreamer by Liani Taylor-Lazlo Strange has long dreamed of the lost city of Weep. Actually, this gorgeous, epic fantasy is too complicated to describe in a sentence or two. I can’t do it.strange
  4. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin-In an alternate history the Axis powers won WWII and Hitler is alive. Yael, a survivor of human experimentation at the hands of Nazi doctors has one goal: win the annual motorcycle race, secure a meeting with Hitler, and kill him.wolf
  5. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zenter-Carter Briggs loses his three best friends after a text message caused a fatal car accident. Carter struggles with his guilt and grief with the help of Blake’s grandmother and her idea of a “goodbye day.”goodbye

Favorite Adult Reads: Apparently I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in 2017! Any why not? It’s pure escapism.

  1. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss-The first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles tells the story of Kvothe, a magician, thief, and assassin. This book is currently in development by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Showtime!name of the wind
  2. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden-A mesmerizing fairy tale set in the cold Russian north. bear
  3. A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers-This is a light-hearted space opera in the vein of Firefly. long way
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey-The first book in the Expanse series and the source material for the Syfy show of the same title, this is a face-paced thriller of a space opera. I do love a space opera!leviathan
  5. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter-Abby returns to her small hometown to investigate a corporation that seems to have connections to an old scandal. Erin Brockovich meets Mean Girls.bonfire

Favorite Nonfiction Reads: 

  1. Ranger Games by Ben Blum-The bizarre true story of a group of young army rangers who rob a bank. ranger
  2. Hunger: a Memoir of (my) Body by Roxane Gay- This deeply personal series of essays explores body image and self esteem and the author’s relationship with food and weight. index
  3. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder-The author, a historian on fascism, offers a guide to understanding and resisting totalitarianism. index (1)
  4. Tears We Cannot Stop: a Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson-This provocative call for change details how white America can work towards real and lasting racial progress. A painful and necessary read. tears
  5. Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. The majority of my nonfiction reading this year was true crime (totally obsessed and if you are too I recommend the podcast My Favorite Murder) or political books. Killers of the Flower Moon is a fascinating addition to the true crime genre. (It’s also the topic of our Men’s Book Discussion in January)killers

~Megan

Sara’s Top 10 of 2017 December 11, 2017

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Debut Author, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Mystery, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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I’m a little behind on my reading so these aren’t all new books.  It was hard to choose but was a lot of fun remembering how much I enjoyed each of these as I went through them.  Hope you find something you’ll enjoy too!

Cover image for The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

This thriller  kept me on the edge of my seat.  The unusual main character, the outdoor setting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the drama of wondering who will catch the Marsh King made this a great, compelling read.

 

 

Cover image for Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Chief Inspector Gamache, and all the eccentric characters of Three Pines do not disappoint in this creepy, dark mystery that has many more layers than at first it seems.

 

 

 

Cover image for The Dry by Jane Harper

A stunning debut novel, with tension and bridled energy at every turn. Looks like small Australian towns come with big secrets.

 

 

 

Cover image for The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I guess this book is considered fantasy, but it seemed real to me as I was reading it! An extraordinary tale of superstition, tradition, family and magic that takes place in the long-lasting winter of the Russian wilderness.  I can hardly wait to read the next book, The Girl in the Tower, just recently released.

 

 

Cover image for Home by Harlan Coben

Book #11 in the Myron Bolitar series, released almost six years after its predecessor, brings back the characters we love- Myron, Win, Esperanza and Big Cindy. A decade older and a little wiser (debatable), they take on the task of finding Win’s cousin who has been missing for 10 years.  A satisfying but dark mystery about friends, family and coming home.

 

 

Cover image for Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Eleanor Flood’s life is a complete mess, but she has decided today will be different.  And she has no idea how right she is!  A hilarious story with a main character you can’t help but love and an ending that makes it all worthwhile.

 

 

Cover image for The Golden Hour by T. Greenwood

I somehow thought T. Greenwood was a new author, but now I am wondering why I haven’t read her other eight books?!  A beautifully written story of a young mother struggling with her marriage, her career, and her future–all because of the lies of her past.

 

 

Cover image for The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

A debut novel that thankfully is the beginning of the Gemma Woodstock series, The Dark Lake tells of teenage jealousy, hurt and secrets that will resurface until they are brought to light and put to rest.

 

 

 

Cover image for The Trespasser by Tana French

It seems that every Tana French book is better than the last, and this is no exception. The book solves a murder, but more importantly digs into the deeply-rooted culture of the Dublin Murder Squad, with it’s egos, grudges, deceptions as well as  its loyalty and commitment to protect and serve.

 

 

Cover image for Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Spending a year as the captive of a psychopath will definitely change your life. This story looks into the mind of Annie O’Sullivan as she discusses the past with her therapist and struggles to put the pieces of her life back together. A creepy, psychological mystery that’s quick to read.

 

Why Short Stories Work for Me November 21, 2017

Posted by gregoryhatch in Adventure, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Gentle Read, Historical Fiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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Our schedules are demanding. Our obligations overwhelming. How can can we be expected to find any time to read? Especially when there are all those critically acclaimed Netflix series/Atwood Adaptations/Groundbreaking Cable shows demand to be watched.

I do love to read but sometimes it can be an uphill battle to sit down and get through a book. I feel worse when I begin a novel and loose interest a 100 pages in. So how can I actually get a chance to enjoy what I am reading, finish a story, and fit it into my schedule? For me the answer came in the form of short stories.

Short story collections solve many of the obstacles I had to sitting down and getting through a book. Don’t have a lot of time but want to to be able to get through an entire plot? No problem, the story is only 20 pages long. Want to a bit of variety and get to sample many different literary voices? Anthologies are the perfect solution. Have a favorite author but they haven’t released the next book in their big series? See if they have any short story collections or if they have edited and collected the works of other authors. Unable to get through the whole collection before you have to return the book? That’s fine, each story was a world in itself and you haven’t created any cliffhangers for yourself.

Short stories can keep up with your busy schedule while giving you a bonus sense of satisfaction when you get through the whole collection. 300 pages doesn’t seem as bad when it is broken up into 10 stories, each giving you a natural rest in between to recharge and carrier on.

-Greg
Here are a few of my favorite short story collections:

Cover image for